What grows in Hard Garden
Entry by Kuh Del Rosario
16 Feb 2018
The recent trip to Manila was driven by the desire to see some exciting work from Philippine based artists. One of the must see shows on the schedule was Hard Garden at Kamias Special Projects. The commute to KSP in Quezon City was admittedly long, made more tedious by the infamous Manila traffic. But among the many shows visited during the week, Hard Garden was one of several worth commuting for, twice.
Hard Garden is KSP's first exhibition, an off shoot of Kamias Triennial. Featuring paintings and a video installation by Philippine based artists Marija Vicente, Tanya Villanueva and Gail Vicente, Hard Garden alludes to a space occupying ideas about love, decay and longing. In framing the works within a metaphorical garden, Marija, Tanya and Gail makes use of the imagery and lexicon the title immediately conjures. Love comes in many forms, complicated by the inherent flaws in the methods employed to seek it. It is tireless work to understand and attain this elusive muse. Much like a garden, the invested labour produces tangible results. But at a certain point, so much of what happens is outside of control.
If you woke up alone in a garden, who would you think of?
If you woke up alone there, naked, who would you blame?
More importantly, who could blame you?
A garden could be a vision of a place where all things primal and true can live out in harmony.
A beautiful garden is enticing.
If you see your reflection in a fountain would you call the cops?
If you wake up with the devil grinding in your ear, nobody can blame you. It's likely grinding to your own jam.
A beautiful garden is hard to nurture.
Some life is insisted on. Some things are decidedly let go.
We are all pushing to exist the way we want to.
Our choice to work together is a manifestation of our faith in understanding made true because of friendship.
We want to insist on seeing our way play out in reality so that when it seems difficult to exist outside of ourselves, our friendship and openness to one another keeps our true selves intact.
Our faith in harmonizing with reality is not extinguished.
Nothing is tested but rather lived out.
(From gallery invitation.)
All three artists are seasoned partners. This is not their first group exhibition together. They know how to create a visual conversation.
Through their unofficial collective and real friendship, ideas are shared and explored, supported and questioned. The unrefined aesthetic stand in for vulnerability that has become their wielded strength. Glitter, draped georgette and pinks and purples reference a hyperbolic femininity, contrasted by the raw finishes of the gallery space. Rugs and mats pulled from the home are all part of the sensory components in Hard Garden that push the ideas of personal space.
Marija, Tanya and Gail spoke about their work being influenced by significant relationships and/or as a response to intimate experiences. Tanya's piece, LOVELY for example features markmaking by her mother and daughter made while eating and doing homework. Gail's paintings uses objects she has pulled from her own home, while Marija's landscapes mythologize a lake in her new neighborhood. But though their work is deeply personal, Hard Garden talks about universal experiences pertinent in everyday life.
Marija Vicente similarly teases with a kind of private language through her motivational slogans turned into cryptic emblems in the series Cipher Paintings. In the first of the series, we see the same dream-like geography emanating from an experiment, which seemingly despite its good intentions, has somehow resulted in a farce or a tragic comedy. The other two paintings bear the mysterious codes accompanied by figures—wounded, chained, and locked in a stasis or trance.
Tanya Villanueva also attempts to articulate her immediate realities by “painting around the idea of making direct personal statements.” In the work, The Nature of Ethos, she masks an apology and a lament for renewal with glitter and confetti, a strategy she also applies to her other works Yuck, Everyone’s Lost At Sea Except Me, and I am Feeling Today (ur my personal jihad) to sugarcoat and at the same time shroud underlying desires and tensions with bedazzling embellishments.
Gail Vicente explores her own long-standing anxieties with painting in I Dreamt of Painting, I Painted My Dream, a series of paintings in different formats: stretched, pinned, and hung from chains. The image of a mythical landscape, either seen through peepholes or cutouts, or behind labyrinthine forms, is common in all four paintings. This type of perspective is also present in a set of small paintings, entitled Genuinely Confused, in which the artist focuses on creating decidedly ambiguous forms for the viewer to decipher.
From the article by Ringo Bunoan
Kamias Triennial was established in 2014 by Philippine/Canadian artist Patrick Cruz. With a play on words, Kamias Triennial happens three times a year with the objective to, '...propel contemporary and experimental ideas within the community of Quezon City.'